Urea barges at New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) were last priced in June at $505 – $530/t FOB for fast shipping barges through July, up from their Lowest level of $410/t FOB during the month and slightly down since the beginning of the month at $510-$550 FOB. Barge trading had slowed in June before demand for export sales supported increased trading, bringing values back above the $500/t mark, but still down from the $500 average. to high in May.
River Terminal Urea fell to $550-$580, down about $100 from May values alongside lower barge trading. Domestic activity was much more subdued due to longer supply duration in areas outside of the US Gulf.
In the near term, weak US domestic demand predicts that barge trading, followed by domestic prices, will continue to follow global market developments. Later in the year, however, fundamentals look stronger for all nitrogen commodities, as noted in the ammonia sections above.
On the heels of a sharp rise in urea prices in late June, markets stabilized as participants retreated ahead of the release of an expected Indian tender. The market was largely driven by suppliers in the lull ahead of the next Indian tender, expected at the end of July.
Brazilian demand remained relatively subdued with several shipments purchased and limited storage space. Sales at the end of June were reported in the $640-$660/ton CFR range, up from $660-$680 the previous month, but up from sales at $625 in mid-June. Egypt continued to see steady sales and shipments last month as prices climbed to $725-763/mt FOB from highs of $730 in May.
Rising gas prices in Europe as well as supply uncertainty around production shutdowns could push prices higher in the coming weeks, as well as import demand, and keep prices higher. Our near-term outlook for global urea prices is uncertain on gas prices, with fewer Chinese exports expected to support prices ahead of the upcoming Indian tender and upcoming demand from Brazil. .
While urea prices continued their steep decline in June, outsized nitrate prices also had to correct lower, and UAN prices in particular saw increased responsiveness to urea price declines over the past few weeks.
In early June, NOLA UAN barges were valued at $575 – 580/t FOB, down from the previous weekly valuation of $600 – $620 on further discounts to UAN in the US interior, lowering prices in other regions. Barge prices would drop sharply in mid-June to $480-550/t FOB and eventually drop to $450-480/t FOB.
Bids from river terminals fell to $500/t FOB with even lower prices available in slower markets, from $620 to $640 in June when values started falling. Supplies would be tighter in storage along the Mississippi River system compared to production sites to explain the price differential between regions.
Mill prices have also been reduced from previous offerings at $600-$625/t FOB to $530-$540 at mills in eastern Oklahoma.
The final anti-dumping duties imposed by the US Department of Commerce were announced on June 21, with the investigation expected to conclude in early August on its current trajectory. The immediate market impact of this latest announcement is difficult to assess, except for the continued absence of spot volumes from Russia and Trinidad to the United States during investigations.
UAN prices are expected to remain stable or decline in the near term until the summer fill and its associated reset, after which prices may regain some value. Further price developments will, of course, depend on the final decisions in anti-dumping/offset cases and the responses of importers.
The US phosphate market remained generally slow for the time of year and generally saw little selling or price movement last month.
Our valuation of the NOLA DAP barge decreased at the high end, from $750 to $820/t FOB in early June to $765 to $790/t FOB in late June. July barges were reported at $810 at the end of the month, in line with barge trades Mosaic sold earlier in the month. MAP values were evaluated at $835-845/t FOB NOLA at the end of June against $780-819/t FOB declared at the beginning of June.
River Terminal Phosphates saw little buying interest ahead of further summer fill announcements, following earlier Simplot offers around $860 CFR MAP. Prices fell between $805 and $875/t FOB DAP and $845 and $925/t MAP, down from prices previously quoted at $880 and $950/t FOB for DAP and between $900 and $950 for MAP.
The split between DAP and MAP was maintained with increased interest in exports driving stronger MAP trade values, which DAP would then follow later as we see in early July. Product and other values continue to be supported when selling in overseas markets.
In the near term, we expect stability in US phosphate prices with the potential for an upside reset after any summer fill programs later this season.
Liquidity in the phosphate market was thin until June, with price benchmarks dwindling in the west, buyers remaining noticeable by their absence. There remains a “wait-and-see” approach as crop and fertilizer prices are at historically high levels despite caps being breached.
MAP prices in Brazil came under pressure, falling to $1,000-1,050/mt CFR from $1,100 in May and year-to-date highs of $1,300. Indian DAP prices held steady at $920/ton CFR, where the government capped prices, but demand remains weak during what is usually peak shipping season.
The main topic of discussion in June was China’s plans to introduce new quotas on phosphate exports, with speculation about shipment limits ranging from 10% of their production to 25% of their capacity. The result, however, was that the market stalled amid the uncertain conditions of last month.
Our outlook for global phosphate prices is under pressure in the west due to slowing demand, and uncertain in the east due to China’s export situation.
Interest from infill buyers continued to grow for potash in June, with the preplant period now fully over, but sellers have so far refrained from releasing full summer schedules.
NOLA potash barges were priced between $770 and $780/t FOB at the end of June, flat from May. A bid below $740 dried up mid-month, but that would prove to be a continuing indicator of market prices with bids in the $730s at the start of July. Product continued to be offered at an FOB NOLA equivalent of $770/t along the Mississippi River throughout the month as well.
Potash supply from river terminals, however, declined by $5-20/t to $750-$785/t, as end-user demand remains extremely sluggish, even relative to the lightly-traded barge market. June offers ranged from $780 to $815/t FOB, but fell with the cheaper barge product available.
Pending the aforementioned fill programs which have yet to be announced, the potash market remains calm in the near term and appears more stable than in previous weeks. New price levels are unlikely to change significantly until nitrogen price levels are also more stable.
Russian potash has indeed started to appear again in American ports and, at the beginning of July, it was learned that Belarusian potash could also start to leave Russian ports. In the near term, we expect US potash prices to be somewhat flat or lower if Baltic Sea shipments increase for the rest of the year.
Editor’s Note: This information was provided courtesy of Fertecon, Agribusiness Intelligence, IHS Markit.
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